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Facebook Relaxes Privacy Policy for Teens

Could D.C. lawmaker blowback be far behind?

Photo: Getty Images

Facebook's new relaxed privacy policy for teenagers probably won't go over very well with privacy advocates in Washington and lawmakers like Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a persistent advocate for tighter online privacy protections for teens.

In a blog post Wednesday, the social network revealed a change in its policy for 13- to 17-year-olds, allowing them for the first time to share their information publicly outside their network. They'll also be able to turn on Follow so that the public posts appear in people's News Feeds.

"Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard," Facebook said in the post

While Facebook argues the changes are "designed to improve the experience for teens on Facebook," it is likely to draw criticism from Markey and others worried that teens may unwittingly open themselves up to predators.

Perhaps anticipating some blowback, Facebook said it would provide teens with an "extra reminder" before they share things publicly and an option to change the post's privacy. If they continue to post publicly, they will get an additional reminder.

We'll see if that all flies in Washington.

Facebook is already under fire from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who have questioned whether recent changes to its data use policy that clarified its use of users' name, picture and "like" in advertising is in violation of its 20-year consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Not coincidentally, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was in town this week chatting up the commissioners. 

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